This collection of five lessons focuses on the meaning of the words "organic" and "inorganic", then focuses on the four types of organic molecules that are covered in the living environment / Regents biology curriculum. (Nucleic acids, lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins.)
This bundle contains the following series of lessons, which can be purchased separately:
Day One: What do "organic" and "inorganic" mean? https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Introduction-to-Organic-Molecules-What-do-organic-inorganic-mean-5334175
Day Two: Nucleic Acids
Day Three: Lipids
Day Four: Carbohydrates
Day Five: Proteins
Introduction to Organic Molecules: What do "organic" & "inorganic" mean?
In this lesson, students learn the differences between the scientific use of the word "organic" and the colloquial use of the word "organic". They then learn the differences between organic molecules and compounds and inorganic molecules and compounds.
During part 1, I make students aware that there are two definitions of the word “organic.” One of these, the grocery store definition, they have probably encountered before. The other, the science class definition, they may have not. During this section, I begin by asking students if they have heard the word “organic” before. Invariably, at least a few students raise their hands. I ask one of them to define it for us. I usually get an answer such as “natural” or “healthy”, or perhaps even “grown without pesticides.” I tell them that these definitions are correct- in the grocery store. I then explain that the word “organic” was co-opted by certain groups in the 1960’s to describe food that was grown in a certain way, but that that definition won’t be useful in science class. Students then practice discerning these two definitions by deciding which way “organic” is being used in some sample sentences. When they finish this, I encourage them to begin the graphic organizer on the next page, which asks students to compare the grocery store definition with the science class definition. At this point, most students realize that we haven’t defined the word “organic” in a scientific way and ask me for a definition. I explain that I’m not going to tell them- rather, they have to figure it out themselves.
When the class has made substantial progress on these first activities, I have one student from every student group come up and grab a student white board, a dry erase marker, and an eraser. (If you do not have student white boards, you may use giant post-its, or masking tape on tables or desks.) I instruct them to make a “t chart” on the board, heading one column “organic” and the other “inorganic.” I then distribute an envelope to each student group. Inside the envelope are 15 pictures of objects, and 15 pictures of molecules. Students take out the objects first, and I tell them to classify the objects as organic or inorganic. If they ask, “How?” I tell them to guess. I tell them to call me over when they are confident that they have made a good guess- and I will tell them how many of their objects are in the wrong column. I will not tell them which objects are in the wrong column.
At this point I let students struggle. I like to listen in to the different hypotheses students come up with, and may pipe in with “interesting,” but nothing more. After a group has incorrectly divided the objects a few times and is beginning to experience frustration, I come over to them again. “Ok, ok.” I say. “Forget ‘organic’ and ‘inorganic.’ If I just asked you to separate these objects into two groups, what groups would you choose?” At this point, at least one student in a group will usually say, “Food and not food.”
“Ok.” I instruct. “Try that.” As students separate the objects into ‘food’ and ‘not food,’ they almost always put all of the organic objects on one side and all the inorganic objects on the other side, with one exception. The exception is extracted DNA. (Occasionally groups doing this will also misclassify salt or water.) When they next call me over, I announce, “Perfect! You only have one wrong.” When they groan, I remind them that we aren’t separating ‘food’ from ‘not food’; we are separating ‘organic’ from ‘inorganic.’ Then I ask them what types of things all food comes from. In this way, I am able to lead them to the idea that foods all come from living things. “Ok,” I say. “Do you see an object in your inorganic column, that actually comes from a living thing?” At least one student will point to the extracted DNA in triumph. I tell them to move it over. “Congratulations! Now put the objects away and try the molecules.”
Students usually groan, and start placing the molecules in the columns, seemingly randomly. Once again, I allow them to struggle and debate, and offer them no other information than the number of cards they have in the wrong column. When a group of students has genuinely attempted a few times, or if they are visibly experiencing frustration, I step in. “You already know where two of these molecules belong FOR A FACT.” When they are surprised, I remind them that two of the molecules, DNA and water, were also two of their objects. I prompt them to recall that they already know that DNA is organic, and that water is inorganic. We sweep away all the other molecules and put these two at the top of their respective columns. I then say, “Ok, as you are classifying the rest of these molecules, compare them to the ones that you know are correct. Call me back over when you’re ready to show me.” At this point, most student groups are able to classify the molecules, with possibly one or two errors, which they can correct when prompted.
Introduction to Organic Molecules: Nucleic Acids
This lesson introduces students to the structure and function of nucleic acids. Students examine pictures of representations of DNA to determine that nucleotides are the building blocks of DNA and that DNA molecules are a double helix. Then they read a one page article to describe the chemical structure of nucleic acids, to determine the complementary strand of four DNA molecules, to distinguish a nucleotide, an RNA molecule, and a DNA molecule by pictures, and to describe hydrolysis and dehydration synthesis of nucleic acids. Finally, students separate pictures of objects and pictures of molecules into categories, deciding whether they are examples of nucleic acids, a different type of organic molecule, or an inorganic molecule.
Introduction to Organic Molecules: Lipids
This lesson introduces students to the structure and function of lipids. Students examine pictures of representations of lipids to determine that fatty acids and glycerol are the building blocks of lipids and that lipid molecules look like a capital letter E. Then they read a one page article to determine the chemical and structural differences between saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats, and to describe hydrolysis and dehydration synthesis of lipids. Finally, students separate pictures of objects and pictures of molecules into categories, deciding whether they are examples of lipids, a different type of organic molecule, or an inorganic molecule. They also separate fats into saturated or unsaturated fats.
Introduction to Organic Molecules: Carbohydrates
This lesson introduces students to the structure and function of carbohydrates. Students examine pictures of representations of lipids to determine that simple sugars are the building blocks of carbohydrates and that carbohydrate molecules look like a string of hexagons. Then they read a one page article to determine whether molecules are monosaccharides, disaccharides, or polysaccharides, where they are found in nature, and their function, as well as describing hydrolysis and dehydration synthesis of carbohydrates. Finally, students separate pictures of objects and pictures of molecules into categories, deciding whether they are examples of carbohydrates, a different type of organic molecule, or an inorganic molecule.
Introduction to Organic Molecules: Proteins
This lesson introduces students to the structure and function of proteins. Students examine pictures of representations of proteins to determine that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, that proteins have four levels of complexity, and that protein molecules look like a complex bundle of coils and loops. Then they read a one page article to determine whether proteins are enzymes or structural proteins, where they are found in nature, and their function, as well as describing hydrolysis and dehydration synthesis of proteins. Finally, students separate pictures of objects and pictures of molecules into categories, deciding whether they are examples of proteins, a different type of organic molecule, or an inorganic molecule.
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